Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

WHEN YOU GO THROUGH THE RIVER OF DIFFICULTY, YOU WONT DROWN

I was born in a country that has two great rivers for borders, the one was the Zambezi on which the Victoria Falls is situated and is a treacherous river with crocodiles and hippopotami.  It is also one of the most beautiful rivers when the sun is setting, and the sounds of wildlife and birds fill the air.  The sun has a magnificent orange glow that sets the river on fire and silhouettes the palm trees, and as you listen to the lapping of the water on the shore or on the boat for the Sunset Cruise, there is no more beautiful place on earth. I can imagine this was like the river mentioned in the Garden of Eden. The southern border of my land of birth was the great, grey, greasy Limpopo River cited by Rudyard Kipling in the Elephant’s Child in Just So Stories, also a dangerous river with crocodiles and hippopotami. People have lost their lives trying to cross these rivers, the Limpopo in particular, as it is shallower and people wanting to cross without going through the border post stand in danger of losing their lives if they risk crossing.

There were times when I was trying to relocate internationally that the bureaucracy was unbearable. To obtain all the documentation and proof of identity that was required of me, was difficult to get from a country in chaos. This among other things made leaving my land of birth a hard time.  But harder still was leaving family and friends and the land that was and still is beautiful. I cherish the memories of my childhood years and the land of freedom and milk and honey (so it seemed to me). I have moved internationally four times and each time has had its difficulties, but I also learned how to navigate through the bureaucracy making it that much easier each time.

I have never been tempted to swim the Limpopo river! I crossed the Beitbridge which takes you into South Africa. I leant all I could about the country on the other side of the bridge and taking the steps necessary to be able to cross over at the Immigration post with my paperwork in order, knowing I had a job waiting for me so I could pay my way. This is part of the process getting to know the culture, language, geography and history of the place your are relocating to, making the transition easier.

I kept my faith that the path that God was leading me was the right one for me and took comfort in the words of Isaiah “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.” That is such a comforting verse for people leaving a conflicted land. Not only that, but Isaiah goes on to say “For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness for my people to go home and create rivers for them in the desert!” Words of hope for the future!

Yes, the Lord has been gracious and given me a future in each land I have lived, it has not been an easy road, but with God’s help there has been work that I could do and people to help me when I have sought them out in the churches in my new location. If you are going through an international relocation right now, patiently follow the process, there is no quick and easy way. Take comfort that God goes with you and is with you through each of the trials you may face.  Treasure the memories of your past place of living, but keep them in a box to be pulled out every now and then to be enjoyed, mourn the loss of your past life, but also embrace the new, letting the past remain there, it cant be changed. Focus on building up your new life, making new friends and contacts and exploring your new environment. In due course you will feel like a native in your new land.

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

REFRESHED AT THE FOUNTAIN

During my travels, I have come across many different fountains, from exotic colored musical fountains to simple garden fountains.  There is something soothing about watching the rise and fall of water as it makes patterns, droplets, glistening like diamonds as they tumble down only to be sucked up again to rise in a glorious pattern repeated again and again.

I think it is this repeating pattern of joy that the psalmist was thinking about when he wrote “For you are the Fountain of life; our light is from your light.” There are many mentions of fountains in the Old Testament; people who lived in the desert and dry landscapes where water was so precious.  For us modern man we have lost the awe for water as we can turn on a faucet at any time and be refreshed: but for those who were thirsty travelers, it must have been such a relief to find a fountain. Proverbs states that ‘reverence for the Lord is a fountain of life, its waters keep a man from death’ and ‘wisdom is the fountain of life to those possessing it’.

When you are travelling through life transitions, especially when you feel dry and shriveled up with the cares of trying to find your way out of this desolate place and you can’t seem to find refreshment, anywhere or your pitcher is broken and the water runs out. This is the time to hold tightly onto your faith, John the Baptist said, “Those who believe him discover that God is a fountain of truth”.

There were many times I felt dried out as a single parent trying to manage a career, attend to my children’s needs, keep the home running smoothly, making ends meet, maintaining a social life and doing ministry. I am not going to tell you I just sat in front of a fountain and felt better!!!! No, but the fountain showed me a truth, it is the repeated pattern that is the key.  Reading God’s word, and affirmations about who I was, who He was and that He cared about me and the children.  It was the daily quiet times spent in prayer and meditation letting His words wash over me, it was the listening to music that soothed my soul that refreshed me, even if it was just for the next half hour, I could go on.

There is no instant turning on the faucet to get relief when you are going through these difficult transitions, I wish there was! Isaiah said “I will open up rivers for them on high plateaus! I will give them fountains of water in the valleys! In the deserts will be pools of water, and rivers fed by springs shall flow across the dry, parched ground.” Rain is seasonal and in South Africa there are many dry riverbeds. Local people may have to dig down into the riverbed to find some water which they will carefully lift out with a cup or a bowl just enough to sustain them another day. So, it is with us, just enough of God’s word to sustain us through this day waiting for a time when there will be showers of blessing and the dry rivers will run again.  It is through these dry times that we can really appreciate a word of encouragement from someone else who can empathize with us and reassure of God’s love in our difficulties. Once we are through this season in life let us be that fountain of joy and hope to another struggling through their time of loss, disappointment or despair. Don’t let us be like the person in Proverbs who polluted the fountain, by compromising with the wicked. Our words will carry weight, choose them carefully. Rather, be present and let silent prayers of love and encouragement wash over their suffering, than say something judgmental that would hurt them further. Let the joy of sparkling water droplets be the words that fall from your lips to sustain them another day

Hydrangeas
Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

Bridal Bouquets

BRIDAL BOUQUETS

I could not let June go by without talking about bridal bouquets! When I was a child, Mario Lanza would sing a song from “The Student Prince”, about ‘taking your girl for a honeymoon in June, June’s the month for honeymoon’. There are numerous songs written on this theme, and it seems that June has been singled out for marriage, perhaps resulting from the romance of Valentine’s day earlier in the year with the red roses!

When I walk down the street and peek into people’s gardens at this time of the year I am amazed at the variety of beautiful white blossoms, many of which remind me of a bridal bouquet with long trailing stems or lovely compact posies of tightly packed florets. (If you see me stopped outside your house one day just gazing at your flowers, I am merely appreciating God’s beautiful creations and not just being a crazy woman! )

We were talking about not worrying about our temporal needs last week.  Our provision which once was God’s natural provision for families through marriage has been removed, by divorce, widowhood or loss. After a time of grieving and learning to manage on our own and rejoicing in the provision we have had for several seasons in our lives, there may come a time when God wants to provide for you again through the institution of marriage.

Once you have learned any lessons you needed to, in maintaining healthy relationships, settling family of origin issues or forgiveness and you feel that this where God is providing for you, you are ready to enter the dating world again.

The Song of Solomon is filled with love songs, poetry and flowers “My beloved is a bouquet of flowers in the gardens of Engedi”. This time of courting should be filled with the enjoyment of each other’s company and growing together spiritually, emotionally and mentally so you can establish a strong foundation for the relationship.

Romance is fostered by the bringing of flowers and bouquets “My beloved is mine and I am his. He is feeding among the lilies! His cheeks are like sweetly scented beds of spices. His lips are perfumed lilies, his breath like myrrh. He has gone down to his garden, to his spice beds, to pasture his flock and to gather the lilies.” This is a time to value one another, who you are and what each contributes to the relationship.

It is well worth your time to read all the wonderful descriptions this pair of lovers have for each other in the Song of Solomon, it is an example of how lovers need to appreciate one another. Many of the herbs and spices were expensive at that time, by comparing your lover to something that is precious and to be cherished will help establish how valuable a good loving relationship is, “You are like a lovely orchard bearing precious fruit, with the rarest of perfumes; nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, and perfume from every other incense tree, as well as myrrh and aloes, and every other lovely spice.” Do we get caught up in the daily routines of life and not make time to really connect on this deeper level of appreciation with prospective mates? When the heady time of love blossoming is over just like the  bouquet fades, and you have decided to make that permanent commitment – Celebrate the goodness of God and His provision for you both, and having grown together at a new and deeper level, with lessons learned from your past, you will travel the next part of your journey through life togeth

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, Widowhood

Temporary Beauty

TEMPORARY BEAUTY

For all the beauty that we see in flowers, they are seasonal and temporal. You would be hard put to find tulips in fall! Lambing time is in Spring and so is the singing of birds and flowers blooming on hillsides and gardens. Soon the temperature changes and in the heat of summer the flowers wither and die. Lambs have grown up and are sent to market and birds look out for their food – the seasons have changed again!

Jesus said “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are”, he was saying that beauty fades it is here today and gone tomorrow, we should not be concerned about the fleeting things of life because they are only part of a greater cycle of things that is eternal and God has provided for us in that.

Quite often after we have been through a loss, be it divorce, widowhood or other, we find ourselves struggling to make ends meet to survive. We take on extra work to pay the bills or we adapt to living with less. These are our temporal needs and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was teaching us not to worry about our everyday lives. Life is more than the temporal, he pointed back to nature, the birds and the wildflowers. Birds are fed by God’s hand they just have to look for food, whether it is seeds, insects or small creatures, their provision is there, they just have to find it.  That of course is the more difficult part!  We know God has promised to provide for our needs, so we need to look in the right places!  Seed eating birds will look in the fields of grain, fruit eaters will look for fruit trees, and eagles will search for small creatures. Knowing your gifting and talents, how God has wired you, will help you to look in the right places for your provision.

Wildflowers are so beautiful, and yet they last for such a short time, but without them we would certainly live in a very dull world, the joy that enters our soul when we see flowers en masse is our spiritual food and nourishment.  A reminder of God’s provision. When I was living in England, I had friends who introduced me to the Charity Shops, these were a treasure trove of cast-off clothing, jewelry and household items. As I had got rid of so many of my belongings in Cape Town before my move to the UK I was able to replace them by shopping at these places for a fraction of what the items would cost new. When I left the UK, I could again return my cast-offs back to these shops to be recycled once again. The proceeds the Charity Shops made were then given to their particular charity to help people who were not in a position to help themselves. I see this as a metaphor for what Jesus was teaching, we only use temporal things for a season or so and are provided for in that season.

We should not worry about these things because God loves us, he values us more than the birds or the flowers and said He will provide for us, we just need to have some faith in His goodness. If we seek the Kingdom of God first, we will be given everything we need, so we do not have to worry about tomorrow, only looking for our provision for this day.

I know this is really hard to take into our hearts when we are struggling and wonder when it will ever end, yet I can honestly say there has never been a day I did not have a roof over my head, food in my mouth or clothes on my back. Being grateful for the small things, seeing them as provision and thanking God for them, opens your heart and mind to receive more of His provision, and knowing it is just for a season, it is as temporary as the flowers helps keep your perspective.

Copyright Deryn van der Tang 2019

Desert cacti
Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

BLOOMING IN THE DESERT

BLOOMING IN THE DESERT  

I have travelled to many places all over the globe, and in each of those places I have found beauty.  I see beauty  mainly in nature in the amazing variety of indigenous flora. I have seen beautiful lace plants in Finland at dawn when the early morning sun turned every drop of dew into a diamond. I have seen acres of lupines alongside the roads.  During my stay in England, I never ceased to wonder at the amazing variety of bulbs that appeared in spring. I went to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands to see the fields of tulips (my favorite flower, my late husband always gave me the first tulip of the season!) Australia has its variety of flowers that in many ways are similar to those I grew up with in Rhodesia, the beautiful purple jacaranda trees lining the avenues throwing down their purple carpet.  Flamboyant and tulip trees with their red carpets of fallen petals beneath them.  In South Africa in the Western Cape, the fynbos has a special kind of flora indigenous to that region, and Namaqualand daisies that only flower once a year after rain has fallen in the desert.

What is the difference between thriving and surviving? Indigenous plants flourish and thrive because they are in their home environment and have adapted to the conditions, so they grow strong and healthy. Desert plants do not thrive in wet conditions and visa-versa. After I had been divorced, I felt uprooted, I left my country of birth, I was transplanted into a new environment when I moved to Johannesburg and Cape Town.  In these right conditions I started to thrive, I found new friends who uplifted me, a church that supported me in my journey into wholeness and work that I loved. Because I thrived and grew in my new environment it helped my children to as well.  There were difficult times as well, but we lived through the storms, because we were in the right environment.  After my husband died, I transferred to the UK to start my life again.  This time around was a lot harder as the environment was more difficult to adapt to.  The weather for a start!  Eventually I established myself in my new environment, but I am not sure whether I was merely surviving, I would not classify my existence as joyfully thriving though! After a time of rest and renewal since retiring and moving to the USA I found I was thriving again.  I had found my right environment, a church that practices a creative ministry where I can use my gifts, family around me and friends young and old whose company I enjoy.

Sometimes we may just be in an environment that is not conducive to thriving after we have been divorced or lost a loved one.  Our inspiration and will to live is battered by these storms.  Do you wait out the storm and bloom in the desert like the Namaqualand daisies? or do you transplant to a better environment where you can thrive?  Those are questions you will need to answer for yourself. The prophet Isaiah has some words to encourage us “Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers”. And again “Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and Sharon’s meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there, the excellency of our God.”  Ask God where He wants you to bloom, be it the desert, mountains or meadows. Wherever it is He will display His glory through you.

Copyright Deryn van der Tang 2019